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Insider’s Guide: LGBT Tourism in Havana

Insider’s Guide: LGBT Tourism in Havana

by cubapura

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German Miguel studied sociology and is now a successful BnB and entreprenuer. He has many years of experience in helping gay tourists explore the LGBT culture in Cuba. Now he shares with us his favourite tips! You can book a stay at his place on his website or Booking.com.

German, tell us about yourself!

German at his beauty salon.

I am German Miguel, sociologist. My partner and I at some point decided to buy a house so that we could start renting it out to tourists on Airbnb and other online platforms. That is how our project of Casa Viola was born. I enjoy working with people, and its a good business: its not very complicated in terms of logistics like a restaurant.

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However, when we started, there were 2000 casas particulares in our neighbourhood of Centro Habana. I said well, when we position ourselves online we need to stand out somehow. What makes us different from all the 5 other casas particulares on my block? I did some research and discovered MisterBnb and Gay Homeestay. Perfect, then I’ll sell the idea of a gay person staying with a gay host. The first people that came to stay with us was a gay couple who were very afraid of discrimination in Cuba. They were glad to be staying with a gay host.

Should tourists visiting Cuba be worried about discrimination against LGBT people?

Well aparently that’s what travel agencies tell them. Last year 2000 Cubans asked for asylum in Holland because they said they were opppressed in Cuba. Of course, we have a lot of political and migration problems here. A lot of it is related to the politics between the US and Cuba. Many Americans still think they can’t come to Cuba, there is a lot of ambiguity and misinformation going around, not just for LGBT travellers. The US government pushes the narrative that people here are oppressed.

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In my opinion and experience Cuba is actually quite open minded. Of course, there are always people who aren’t. We recently had a referendum on the constitution, and the government tried to create a national debate about gay marriage. But most people I spoke to weren’t interested, they wanted to talk about economic matters. My opinion is that heterosexuals pushed the gay marriage thing more than the gay community in Cuba, because it could lead to all sorts of sneaky business opportunities. You can get married with your buddy and sort out your papers, that sort of thing.

Is it safe on the street in Cuba then?

Kids here play on the street till midnight, which tells you a lot about the violence on the street. I don’t know any foreigners who have been robbed in Havana, the largest danger is car accidents. Hearing of friends getting mugged is very rare. We’ve never had any of our guests get mugged on the street in the 4 years we operate.

Of course, we’ve had clients who get into stuff that is risky all over the world who end up having a hard time, but unless you’re out looking for trouble it won’t find you.

Are there any gay bars, restaurants, places you recommend?

What kind of gay bars? Luckily, there are a lot of places you can go to. If you want something more high end and expensive, I can recommend Cafe Cantante or Tablado (in the Gran Teatro de la Habana). It depends on the day of week, both of them its on Thursday. If you want to spend a bit less money you could go to Las Vegas. They have drag queen shows every day of the week. Drag queens are fun to talk to, some of them have the most masculine day jobs. There are a few private bars too, like XY (Thursdays there is a comedian there, lots of gay jokes), El Essencia and El Bar Pasillo.

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If you are really really low on funds go to the corner of Infanta and 23 close to Las Vegas. Saturdays and Sundays people go to Las Vegas, and when people go out of the club they go to chat there. Mobile internet exists since November, we don’t have Grinder and other gay apps. Grinder is actually blocked in Cuba, not because of the Cuban government, but because of the US government! If you wanna meet someone, you can meet there on the street.

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If you’re travelling with hetero friends you should know gay bars in Cuba are hetero-friendly places. For example King Bar started as a gay place, then the hetero crowd started going there, so many of the gays started going elsewhere, but now they’ve come back and its a good mix.

In terms of gay restaurants, there is a place in front of Hotel Vedado, I don’t remember the name but it has a gay flag so you can find it easily. Every day a new place opens up, I’ve heard CubaLibro also has a gay flag out.

Gay beaches also exist. For example, Mi Cayito in Boca Ciega has a gay flag next to the Cuban flag. It has about 10 km of beach. I also heard from someone that in Cayo Santa Maria a new hotel opened, just for gay tourism.

Are there gay tours or tour guides that cater to the LGBT community?

Some guests ask for tours with people who understand and know about LGBT life. There are some guys who run a project called Cuba Cubano Cubaneando who are quite flexible, they’ll take clients wherever they want to go. If you want to see the historic sights of Old Havana they’ll take you there, but if you want to know all about the Havana nightlife they’ll show you.

They’ll say, hey today is the day to do this, to do that, if you wanna meet a few friends of ours we can go to this place etc. I can highly recommend them.

What places are there for the LGBT community outside Havana?

With time you start meeting other gay hosts. Being gay is like part of being a country, a culture. I usually recommend to people Pavel y Guido, two artists with a rent house in Santa Clara. In Trinidad is Valentin who is an older man who lives with his couple and Amanda in Viñales. I’ve heard MogoteArt in Viñales is also an interesting project.

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Is LGBT sex tourism a thing in Cuba?

Normally our guests are couples, but sometimes we have someone who is here to meet people. We have strict rules for safety reasons, as do most Casa Particular hosts. When a person comes in, we need to take their ID. Normally there are no problems, but once we had an issue with a guy that brought someone in without letting us know. That’s clearly against the rules.

Gay jineteros (prostitutes) are called pingeros. There will be pingueros in Las Vegas. If you wanna go to a bar without being stalked by pingueros go to XY because you have to spend more money, and that’s expensive for someone looking for work. Go to Cafe Cantante, which has a 5 dollar entry fee. There you’ll meet professionals: lawyers, doctors, architects and the like.

Anything else we should know?

There are a lot of more gay friendly houses in Havana. Cuba is all for gay tourism! The government has realised this is a good investment because gays are wonderful guests, they don’t haggle and buy the most expensive drinks on the menu.

In order to keep this blog running this post contains affiliate links.

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